New York Mets Rumors
It is not often, perhaps, that a team improves after losing its best player. But that is precisely what happened to the Cardinals after watching all-time great first baseman Albert Pujols leave town for Anaheim, writes Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal. GM John Mozeliak says he was "down, depressed, disheartened" upon losing Pujols. Since last season, however, the team has received just as much production as Pujols has given the Angels, and at a much lower cost (now and in the future). Meanwhile, money that might otherwise have gone to Pujols was used to ink highly productive players like Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina. Of course, the Cards tried to keep Pujols, though they were not willing to exceed the $200MM barrier to do so. Mozeliak recalls conferring with St. Louis owner Bill Dewitt Jr., who declined the opportunity to bid whatever amount necessary to keep the franchise cornerstone. Says Mozeliak: "In the end, it came down to business discipline versus emotionally driven negotiation." Even before Pujols's injury-addled start to 2013, the Cardinals looked smart for sticking to their position.
Here are a few other notes from around the National League:
- Brian McCann has just begun a season that many believe will be his last in a Braves uniform, but he is focused on the present, writes Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. While the slugging catcher and his surgically-repaired shoulder are being watched closely by potential new employers, McCann claims that he is not thinking about the future. "I think when you get ahead of yourself is when you get in trouble." For now, McCann says, "I'm worried about playing baseball. ... I'm worried about helping this team win. I'm worried about getting my shoulder stronger every day. And I'm in a good place."
- Mets officials appear to be anticipating the call-up of top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler sooner rather than later, writes Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. One official said that Wheeler would arrive in New York by June 1 "at the latest," while another called that date "a little aggressive." Martino says that the team genuinely does not appear to be angling to keep Wheeler from achieving Super Two status, but instead intends to promote him when it feels he is ready.
- Dodgers president Stan Kasten apologized to fans for the team's less-than-inspiring start to the year, but said that the club was planning to stay the course. As Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports, Kasten claims not to be contemplating any immediate, major moves. Kasten did continue to emphasize the Dodgers' seemingly endless, but arguably aimless, payroll flexibility: "We can do whatever we feel makes sense in the long term and short term."
- The Cubs' sabermetric focus has not only trickled down from the front office to the playing field, but according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune has produced some wise decisions. Specifically, the Cubs look smart for declining to pursue Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Sullivan says the team has been better in the short term, at least for the time being, without the expensive stars. More importantly, the club maintained roster flexibility and youth by choosing to go with the promising Anthony Rizzo at first and a veteran platoon in right field.
The MLB draft is less than a month away, with the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, and Indians taking the first five picks. The latest:
- Stanford righty Mark Appel, Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray, San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant, prep righty Kohl Stewart, and Nevada righty Braden Shipley are the first five picks in Jim Callis' first mock draft for Baseball America, in which he takes a stab at the entire first round. The article is chock full of great info.
- Callis hears rumors that the Twins could cut a deal with high school catcher Reese McGuire at #4, spending heavily further down in the draft.
- The Twins, Indians, and Royals are searching for pitching, writes Callis. The Mets "appear to be targeting college bats."
- In case you missed it, Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com posted his first mock draft Tuesday.
- More clubs are drafting for organizational need these days, writes ESPN's Jason Churchill, which could lead to a first round "dominated by hitters."
With less than one month until the 2013 Amateur Draft, Conor Glassey of Baseball America spoke with Astros scouting director Mike Elias about the team's No. 1 overall selection and approach to the draft. Glassey's piece is a terrific, in-depth look at the amount of Astros personnel that is involved in the decision as well as GM Jeff Luhnow's role in scouting potential No. 1 picks. Elias says the Astros are still choosing from a pool of about seven players but won't prematurely count anyone out or make any rushed rankings. Here's more from Glassey and others on the upcoming draft...
- Glassey speculates that the seven players up for debate among Astros brass are Mark Appel, Jonathan Gray, Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows, Kris Bryant, Sean Manaea and Colin Moran. There aren't many surprises in that group, as those names are commonly regarded among the best talent available in the draft.
- Also within Glassey's piece, he notes that the overall strength of this year's draft class on the 20-80 scale would probably be a 45. An NL scouting director told him that success in this year's draft will be about finding an undervalued niche within that underwhelming crop of players.
- More from Glassey, who adds that college talent, in particular, is weak in this draft. The first round could feature as few as six college pitchers, and there's no consensus top college shortstop. The first college shortstop might not come off the board until the third round. Zack Cozart (No. 79 overall in 2007) currently represents the latest instance of the first four-year college shortstop coming off the board in any draft.
- Baseball America's Jim Callis reports that Ryan Boldt, a high school outfielder from Red Wing, Minn., will undergo arthroscopic surgery to repair a slight tear in his meniscus. Boldt was a potential first-round pick, and Callis feels that even with the injury he will still go "pretty high" because he was so good last summer (Twitter links).
- ESPN's Keith Law feels that Boldt's injury could drop him out of the first round and may ultimately lead Boldt to honor his commitment to Nebraska rather than sign out of high school (Twitter link). Law ranked Boldt as the 13th best prospect (Insider required) in this year's class in mid-April.
- Logan Shore, a high school right-hander who is also from Minnesota, hit 91 mph in the seventh inning of his start yesterday, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Wolfson reports that the Twins, White Sox, Mets, Nationals, Blue Jays, A's and Reds have shown the most interest in Shore, who Law listed as the draft's No. 39 prospect in his Top 50 rankings.
Carlos Gomez has emerged as the top player from the Johan Santana trade between the Mets and the Twins, the New York Post's Joel Sherman writes. Santana himself had season-ending shoulder surgery in early April, and the other players the Twins received along with Gomez (Philip Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra) haven't panned out. Meanwhile, Gomez, who the Twins shipped to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy, is off to a .368/.417/.642 start while playing great defense in center field. Sherman doesn't really blame the Mets for dealing Gomez, however. "Would this franchise and this city really have had the patience to wait six years for a blossoming — if it ever would have happened here?" he says. Here are more notes from the NL.
- In a blog entry, Sherman compares Gomez to former Yankees star Bernie Williams, in that both players needed more time than usual to turn their considerable tools into skills. Williams entered the Majors in his age-22 season in 1991, but didn't post an OBP higher than .354 until age 25 and didn't hit 20 homers in a season until age 27. Doug Melvin, now the Brewers' GM, was the Yankees' scouting director when New York signed Williams.
- Paul Maholm and the Braves have not had discussions regarding the possibility of a contract extension, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports (Insider-only). The Braves exercised their 2013 option on Maholm, guaranteeing him $6.5MM. But he is a free agent in the coming offseason, and with a good 2012 season and a strong start in 2013 (3.09 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9), Maholm could be rewarded with a much bigger payday.
- The timing of Brian McCann's free agency is inconvenient for him, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News writes. McCann returned from shoulder surgery to make his season debut Monday, going 0-for-4 with a walk. He'll be a free agent after the season just as he's entering his 30s, and his injuries and declining play will likely limit the market for him (depending on how he does this season, of course). Also, the emergence of Evan Gattis -- who has a meager .305 OBP this season, but a .563 slugging percentage -- gives the Braves a reasonable alternative to McCann at catcher. Still, Martino suggests that there will likely still be strong interest in McCann, perhaps from teams like the Yankees in need of catching help. McCann has a strong reputation within the game, and finding a catcher who can hit isn't easy.
Sporting an 18-12 record, the Yankees will be in Coors Field tomorrow with Hiroki Kuroda on the hill. The Mets, currently at 12-16, host the White Sox tomorrow and will send Matt Harvey to the mound. The latest on New York's teams:
- Derek Jeter is out indefinitely and Eduardo Nunez is day-to-day with a rib cage injury. But even healthy, "Nunez is not an everyday player," a scout tells Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, prompting the writer to wonder if the Yankees will make an acquisition this season. Martino speculates that a Ronny Cedeno type could help in the short-term, while Jimmy Rollins could be intriguing despite a potential awkward situation when Jeter returns. In my estimation, one of the only other viable targets this summer might be Asdrubal Cabrera, but only if the Indians fall well out of contention.
- "Even if the Yankees were willing to meet a big asking price for a significant upgrade, that significant upgrade just doesn’t exist," writes Mike Axisa of River Ave. Blues regarding the shortstop market, while noting that perhaps gloveman Brendan Ryan of the Mariners could be had. Axisa also looks at potential Yankees trade targets at catcher, in the bullpen, and from the right side of the plate.
- Following a second consecutive strong outing, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com wonders when Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler might get the call. He notes that the Mets will need an extra starter in late June at Turner Field, which could serve the dual purpose of having Wheeler fail to achieve Super Two status later and allowing him to make his big league debut in his home state.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tells Andrew Kahn that his favorite scoop was his early reporting on the Angels' discussions with Albert Pujols. A tip of the cap to Metsblog for the link to the Rosenthal interview. Michael Baron discussed (and generally concurred with) Rosenthal's opinion that the Mets will not be contenders until at least 2015, in spite of the team's promising young arms. Here are a few more notes from around baseball:
- Reid Brignac says he is grateful to the Rays organization for sending him to the Rockies before spring training, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The infielder says that he "could see the signs right in front of me" that he was a longshot to make the Tampa Bay roster. With a full spring to prove himself, Brignac managed to make an infield-heavy Rockies opening day roster. While Brignac has only seen 42 plate appearances, and has slugged just .324 in his limited opportunities, he has been able to get on base at a .325 clip.
- Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has been optioned to Triple-A, making his demotion official. Toni Ginnetti of the Chicago Sun-TImes quotes Cubs manager Dale Sveum as saying that Stewart is in the minors "as a triple A player now," with Cody Ransom and Luis Valbuena being the Cubbies' third base options. Stewart struggled mightily at the top level of the minors while rehabilitating a strained quad. Still just 28, Stewart has failed to return to the level he reached during his promising 2009-10 seasons, when he showed 20-home run power at a young age. Meanwhile, the Cubs still have little to show for their investment in the former first-round pick, who barely cleared the Mendoza line last year. In addition to paying Stewart over $4MM over the last two seasons (after non-tendering but re-signing him this offseason), the Cubs gave the Rockies Tyler Colvin and DJ LeMahieu to acquire him.
- The notion that Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol can build up any trade value is preposterous, tweets David Kaplan of CSN Chicago. Marmol was yanked in the eighth inning today after allowing two walks and hitting a batter, which led to two runs to break open a tie ballgame. After today's implosion, Marmol has more walks than strikeouts after throwing 11 2/3 innings.
There's been lots of speculation over Terry Collins' job security as he is in the final year of his contract, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson says that he'll "absolutely" remain as manager for at least the remainder of the season, writes Mike Puma of the New York Post. "He came into the season without a contract for next year and may not have one for next year through this season," Alderson said. "But as I've told him and said before: This isn't just about wins and losses, it's about how we approach the game and fully taking into account what he has to work with." Here's more from the AL and NL East..
- In his latest mailbag, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star notes that while Josh Johnson could get back to his old form once he returns from injury and boost his trade value, the fact that he was the Blue Jays' initial target in trade talk with the Marlins could mean that the club isn't going to go for a quick trade if things aren't going well. Johnson is making $13.75MM in his walk year, which may give him extra motivation once he takes the hill again.
- The newest member of the Yankees, Chris Nelson, is excited about his new opportunity in the Bronx, writes MLB.com's Bryan Hoch. The Bombers acquired Nelson for cash or a player to be named later earlier this week.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos says that everything is alright in the clubhouse, but Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com sees signs of fraying within the new-look team.
Earlier today, Marc Hulet took a look at the prospects involved in this offseason's Blue Jays/Marlins and Blue Jays/Mets blockbuster trades. If that's not enough Mets coverage for you, here's more on the Amazins for your Thursday afternoon...
- Matt Meyers of ESPNNewYork.com wonders if the Mets might come to regret their refusal to include Zack Wheeler in a Justin Upton trade this winter. Wheeler could obviously develop into a serious talent, but Meyers notes that Upton is already a team-controlled, established star at a position of great need for the Mets.
- The Mets have issues, but manager Terry Collins isn't one of them, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The soon-to-be 64-year-old is in the final year of his deal and there has been speculation that he may not be back in 2014.
- Heyman also writes that playing for the Mets is a dream come true for John Buck, who has surprisingly been the best player involved in this offseason's blockbuster Blue Jays trades. Buck grew up in Utah aspiring to one day play for a New York team and has now improbably reached that goal. Even more unlikely, he has done so alongside one of his youth-league teammates -- Brandon Lyon.
The Prospect Rumor Roundup returns for a second week with a look back at the biggest trade of the offseason...
With Toronto almost 10 games out of first place at the beginning of May, and with the bandwagon already set ablaze by fickle fans, it's safe to say that this is not the type of start to the year that the Blue Jays front office was expecting. The organization orchestrated two key trades during the 2012-13 offseason, which brought a number of high-profile veterans north of the border, including R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Emilio Bonifacio. A month into the season, those five players have accumulated a combined 0.3 fWAR (Wins Above Replacement).
With arguably a top five minor league system prior to the deals, Toronto mortgaged a good deal of its future for a chance to win now. While the veterans are struggling, the majority of the prospects -- no longer under the Jays' control -- are thriving in their new digs.
Catcher Travis d'Arnaud reportedly came close to winning a big league roster spot out of spring training with the Mets. He was assigned to Triple-A where six of his nine hits went for extra bases. He also added 12 walks before going down with a broken foot. He'll miss about eight weeks, but veteran catcher John Buck is holding down the fort in the Majors. D'Arnaud was added to the 40-man roster in November 2011 and is currently in his second of three option years, so he'll have to establish himself in the Majors by the end of the 2014 season to avoid being sent through waivers to be demoted to the minors.
One of three top young arms in Toronto's system prior to being dealt to the Mets, Noah Syndergaard has a 3.24 ERA in five High-A ball starts. He's been even better than it appears, though, as he allowed seven of his nine earned runs on the year in just one start. Jonathan Raymond of MiLB.com recently spoke to the prospect's A-ball pitching coach to learn more about his approach. The Texas native is eligible for the Rule 5 draft in 2014 so he'll have to be added to the 40-man roster after next season to avoid being snatched away from the Mets.
Outfielder Wuilmer Becerra suffered a scary injury last year in rookie ball when he was hit in the face during an at-bat, ending his season after just 11 games. The 18-year-old was originally signed out of Venezuela for $1.3MM and was considered one of the top Latin amateur free agents in 2011. He's currently playing in extended spring training and should be assigned to a short-season club in June.
Adeiny Hechavarria was signed out of Cuba by the Jays and has taken over the starting shortstop gig in Miami, although he's currently on the disabled list. His offense hasn't kicked in yet but he's playing steady ball in the field and is known for being a plus defender capable of providing a ton of value with his glove alone. Hechavarria's traditional three option years expired at the end of 2012 but he was granted a rare fourth option year for the 2013 season, so he can be sent down to the minors this year -- if need be -- without being exposed to waivers.
Like Syndergaard, Justin Nicolino was a member of Toronto's top pitching trio. The Florida native has enjoyed his time in the Miami Marlins organization despite an inconsistent year to date and has a 3.60 ERA in five starts in the High-A Florida State League. Nicolino's adjustment to his hometown organization was recently outlined by Guy Curtright at MiLB.com. He doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2014 season. I recently spoke with Marlins Director of Player Development Brian Chattin, who said the organization was happy with all the players they acquired. "Nicolino has shown an above-average changeup and a mature approach to his development," he added.
An injury to outfielder Jake Marisnick kept him on the sidelines until this past weekend. After spending 55 games at the Double-A level in 2013, he got his feet wet back in High-A ball before moving back to Double-A. He has plus defensive skills but a front office contact within the Jays organization told me during the offseason -- shortly before the big trade -- that he's still getting used to some adjustments made to his batting stance and swing mechanics. Chattin told MLBTR, "[Jake has] excellent makeup, he's a well-above-average athlete, impressive defender in center field and has the tools to be an impact major leaguer." Marisnick will have to be added to the 40-man roster this coming November to shield him from the Rule 5 draft.
The lesser known name of the group of prospects sent to Miami, Anthony DeSclafani arguably has had the most success of the four players. The University of Florida alum has a 0.44 ERA with 16 strikeouts and three walks in 20.2 innings pitched. A reliever with inconsistent results in college, the organization is trying to stretch him out as a starter in pro ball. "Anthony has thrown strikes and lived at the bottom of the zone in each of his starts," Chattin told MLBTR. "We are allowing him to use his curveball in addition to his slider/fastball/changeup combination. He has confidence in his curveball and is using it well as a complement to the rest of his arsenal." Like Nicolino, DeSclafani has to be added to the 40-man roster after the 2014 season.
Prospect Tidbits: With the recent success of 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball is enjoying renewed popularity. Orioles minor leaguer Eddie Gamboa is attempting to become the next successful big league knuckleballer. Benjamin Hill of MLB.com explained that the pitching prospect received some guidance from Hall of Famer Phil Niekro during spring training. Gamboa said that he's currently throwing his new pitch about 50 percent of the time in game situations, much to his surprise. Said Gamboa:
"I always put up okay numbers, enough to keep getting a job again but not enough to get a promotion... My game was stuck... The knuckleball was always something that I had practiced just in case, but I didn't think that just in case was going to be this year."
A talented two-way player in high school, Stetson Allie signed with the Pirates for a $2.25MM bonus in 2010 and began his career on the mound. When he was unable to harness his control (29 walks in 26 innings in 2011), the organization took a huge gamble by shifting the strong-armed prospect to first base. It took a year of struggling to find his footing but Allie is finally tapping into his plus raw power and has eight home runs in 24 A-ball games. Mike Newman of FanGraphs.com recently watched the Pirates prospect play and he also spoke with Allie, as well as Pittsburgh's assistant general manager Kyle Stark.
Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner feels that the January 2012 trade that sent him to San Diego (with Kyung-Min Na) for Anthony Rizzo and Zach Cates was good for him and for Rizzo, Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. "I think it was a trade that certainly worked out well for both players involved," Cashner says. "The pitcher got to move to a pitcher’s ballpark. The hitter got to move to a hitter’s ballpark."
Rizzo, meanwhile, feels there wasn't a place for him in San Diego. "As soon as they traded for Yonder Alonso, I don’t think I was in the Padres’ plans," he says. "I can understand it. Yonder was probably better suited to Petco Park than I was." Rizzo had a strong season with the Cubs in 2012, while Cashner has struck out 19 batters in his first 19 1/3 innings in 2013 while showing off mid-90s velocity. Here are more notes from around the National League.
- The Phillies face "major questions," Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci writes. Pitchers Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay will cost the team $64.5MM in 2013, but it's questionable whether the rest of the roster can support them, Verducci argues. Big expenditures on those three pitchers, plus star veterans Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, meant the Phillies had to build a cheap outfield, says Verducci. The biggest problem in the outfield so far this season, however, is that Domonic Brown and Ben Revere have struggled. Those players aren't highly-paid, but they also aren't on the roster merely because they're cheap. Revere posted 3.1 wins above replacement in 2012, and Brown was a highly-regarded prospect. "We have a lot of guys in the outfield who have never done it over a full season and are starting to get older, as far as being considered young players," a Phillies employee says.
- Jim Thome, who played for the Phillies and Orioles in 2012, is hoping to return to baseball later this season, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. "He still thinks he can play," says Phillies manager Charlie Manuel. "He misses the game. Baseball is his identity. That’s all he’s done for 20-some years or so. He's kind of having a hard time adjusting."
- Before a strong start today against Reno, top Mets prospect Zack Wheeler was struggling to adjust at Triple-A Las Vegas, John Harper of the New York Daily News writes. Mets fans are waiting for Wheeler to join the big-league rotation. "Obviously I want to be up there, but you can’t think about it because it will distract you, take your mind off what you’re trying to do down here," Wheeler says. Wheeler currently has a 4.80 ERA. Las Vegas is one of the toughest places to pitch in the minor leagues, however, and the fact that he's allowed a few too many runs there might not mean Wheeler isn't ready for the Majors, especially with 10.8 K/9 so far this year.